Viruses have recently emerged as promising nanomaterials for biotechnological applications. One of the most important applications of viruses is phage display, which has already been employed to identify a broad range of potential therapeutic peptides and antibodies, as well as other biotechnologically relevant polypeptides (including protease inhibitors, minimizing proteins, and cell/organ targeting peptides). Additionally, their high stability, easily modifiable surface, and enormous diversity in shape and size, distinguish viruses from synthetic nanocarriers used for drug delivery. Indeed, several plant and bacterial viruses (e.g., phages) have been investigated and applied as drug carriers. The ability to remove the genetic material within the capsids of some plant viruses and phages produces empty viral-like particles that are replication-deficient and can be loaded with therapeutic agents. This review summarizes the current applications of plant viruses and phages in drug discovery and as drug delivery systems and includes a discussion of the present status of virus-based materials in clinical research, alongside the observed challenges and opportunities.
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